in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day thirty-one

Right now I’m trying to design a cover for William Heyen’s next volume of journals, volume 2. He is so prolific. He writes more than Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King. He’s got like 50 or more collections of poems, a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m not going to list, and his journal. 600+ pages per volume, and the first one was about a 9-point type size. He’s got about 20 of these. Anyway. I’m designing a possibly cool cover for volume 2, but I need a break. Actually, I need a drink.

Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine 2008So tonight it is Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine 2008. I’ve heard this is  jammy. I heard the vines are 100 years old. I’ve heard the grapes have been purposely stressed out, which is a good thing. It makes the grapes taste better. The vineyard also, as I understand it, uses a wild yeast. If this wild yeast behaves as it should and the wine maker knows what he or she is doing, then you will get very good results.

Let’s talk about yeast for a second. There are two yeast than can be used: wild and cultured. When a using a cultured yeast in the wine making process, the  cultured yeast ferments the grapes without much trouble – it begins fermenting right away and finishes fermenting. It works from beginning to end. Fermentation is what turns grape juice into wine. With a cultured yeast, the wine will be 12% to 13% alcohol. With the cultured yeast, the fermentation process is more controlled, and it won’t get sticky.  There will be little hassle with the cultured yeast.

With wild yeast, the fermentation process does not begin right away, as it does with cultured yeast. With wild yeast, the fermentation process begins whenever it finds sugar, and then the wild yeast might act as it should. If it does, it will turn grape juice into wine. However, sometimes wild yeast can end up being sticky. If it does, then there is a lot of work to save the wine. When the wild yeast does act correctly, then you will get a wine with more depth and dimensions that could be had with cultured yeast. Oh, and most important, more alcohol. Up to 16%. The Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine 2008 has 14.9% alcohol. So, yay!

What does Lodi mean? It’s a region.

Zinfandel is California’s favorite son. Unlike the classic French and Italian varietals, whose history in the New World is well charted, the origins and history of Zinfandel remain mysterious to this day. Research at the University of California, Davis, has uncovered clear genetic links to two European grapes: Italy’s ‘Primitivo’ and Croatia’s ‘Plavac Mali’; but wines produced from these grapes bear only a passing resemblance to California Zinfandel. It seems that Zinfandel, regardless of its origins, is truly a California phenomenon.

Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and dozens of other European varietals which first entered California at the port of San Francisco in the mid-nineteenth century, Zinfandel appears to have come to us by way of a New York nursery in the early part of the nineteenth century. It’s virtues were immediately apparent: prolific producer of large clusters, up to three flowering cycles per season, and juice capable of reliably producing very good wine. It is no wonder that this varietal was esteemed above all others in California for red table wine in the nineteenth century. Zinfandel vineyards sprang up in Sonoma and Napa Counties, in the Sierra Foothills, in the Central Coast, throughout the Central Valley . . . and in Lodi.

There are more old, head pruned Zinfandel vineyards in Lodi today than in any other region of California. Since Lodi had been upstaged by other regions until late in the 1990s, few consumers had even heard of Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel. Worse, the distinguished fruit of most of these fine, old vineyards was sold to large wineries, to be blended with fruit of lesser quality.

Today, Lodi is undergoing a Renaissance. . . .




That seems a good description to me.


Is Plungerhead a superwine hero?

So we got stressed out old-vine grapes from Lodi, a fermentation process using wild yeast, and a dude with wine barrels for thighs and a plunger on his head. This has to be delicious and fun.

Alright, so lets get to it. Allons-y.

It’s bright and deep purple with lots of legs, because of the wild yeast yielding 14.9% alcohol! It has a thin meniscus, particularly thin for such a young wine.

It has a jammy and spicy nose. A big nose. Vanilla. Cherries, like cherries from a farmers market. Like those cherries that are closer to ruby in color than red, and with a seed in the middle.

Oh my, I love this texture. It is really jammy. Like raspberry jam, but without the seeds. Oh, it’s so fun to swirl in the mouth. There might be some plum in there, too.

I think there is bacon on the finish.

I can’t stop tasting this wine. And oddly, I think I can taste the terroir of Lodi. I have some Lodi Zinfandels before, and when I drink this, I recall them. It’s in the back of the mouth right before I swallow, a second or two after I swallow, and in the nose as I hold the wine in my mouth.

This wine is so fun to drink. There’s a juiciness to it like the juiciness from biting into a mushroom.

It’s delicious.

Oh wild yeast, how I love you.

I’m glad “Zork Dork is back!”

Get a bottle, and you will understand that reference.//

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